by Jane Swanson
[ We've been on vacation and hope to be back on schedule next week with the articles of the week! This week, we'd like to feature an article by one of the Christian Homeschool Forum members, Jane Swanson. The Swansons have homeschooled their five children for many years and their oldest son graduated this month. We believe this account will inspire and encourage you all! --Tamara Eaton]
A Homeschool Graduation By Jane Swanson
Sweet baby faces, little boy smiles, and young man grins, in gold picture frames, greeted guests from the tops of twenty square tables. Baskets lined with purple napkins held goldfish cracker snack assortments while napkins cheering on the class of 1997 sat boldly on the side. Tabletops sprinkled with metallic colored *97*'s and gold cushioned chairs also helped proclaim the commencement exercises of Swanson Christian Academy.
An Awards table showcased trophies, plaques, and medals earned by the graduate. Examples of course work mingled with the awards and a Creative Memories school year book. Guests milled around the table and signed the yearbook with exhortations such as: JARED-GO WITH GOD AND FOR GOD! LOVE YOU MAN!
Helium-filled balloons of purple and gold topped by a silver star balloon imprinted with *Congratulations Graduate* swayed on each side of the platform. A felt quilt edged in purple and gold triangles was hung from the center stage. The many colored squares and rectangles sported different aspects of the young graduate's life. Boldly stating life verses, school banners, uniform numbers, basketball and soccer logos, it provided a perfect backdrop for the graduation festivities.
Hearty greetings from Principal John Swanson on May 31st, 1997 at 2:00PM began the ceremonies. Speaking emotionally to the many parts of the Swanson's lives gathered together in that one room, he thanked them for coming. Descending the steps of the platform he joined his wife and their other four children to welcome the graduate.
Pomp & Circumstance, as played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on CD, filled the air as the purple-gowned graduate strode into the room. Gold cords and tassel swung in time to Sir Edward Elgar's march. Three red roses were carried proudly by the graduate as he approached his waiting family. Bending slightly, he offered the first red rose to his seven year old sister, Joelle. Kissing her on the cheek, he moved to the next sibling in line. Ten year old Jordan blushed embarrassingly as his older brother shook his hand. Another red rose was bestowed upon his thirteen year old sister, Julia, as she stood on tiptoe to offer her kiss. A handshaking scenario and chest thumping was the manly greeting to his 16 year old brother, Justin. The final red rose was sweetly presented to his mother accompanied by a loving embrace while his father was greeted with a handshake and hug. Ascending the three steps to the platform, the graduate stood awaiting the final cresando before seating himself on a high stool.
Korean pastor Min Chung was introduced and offered the opening invocation. He thanked the Lord for the gift of Himself and the blessing of Jared Paul Swanson, the graduate. It was a heart-felt prayer that graciously led the way for the rest of the program to bring great honor to our God.
Julia stepped up to the platform to read the introduction. She explained the founding and purpose of Swanson Christian Academy. Sharing verses from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Proverbs 22:6 she delivered the message that our school has focused on understanding the individual bent of each student, developing a committment to academic excellence, acquiring a lifestyle of learning and above all maintaining a sincere love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Introducing his basketball coach and friend, Jared shared that Coach Pico was like a second father to him. A man who had taught him, on and off the court, that Jesus Christ was most important. Mr. Tim Pico began his address by focusing on the type of character that Jared portrayed in the midst of intense pressure during basketball games. He gave a *wish-list* of what he hoped for Jared while music played in the background to accompany his comments. With wit and candor, he expressed that this was a young man who would accomplish great things for the cause of Christ.
"What can I say about this next speaker?" Jared began. "He's like a big kid." With a broad smile and obvious affection Jared introduced Andy Thomas, assistant basketball coach and family ministries pastor. Andy blessed all by his comments and poem. He entitled the poem _ All About Shoes_, in reference to the store where Jared is employed. Each family member's shoes and sandals for Jesus were displayed on the stage as he made reference to Jared's part in leading or following. Ending his address with Steve Green's song _Find Us Faithful_, Andy left few dry eyes.
The Charge to the Graduate was powerfully delivered by the principal and father. He exhorted his son to: Fix his eyes on the prize, Fill his mind with His Word, Find companions who are strong in their love for the Lord, and Faithfully serve Jesus by serving people. It was a tender salute from father to son.
Jared stood solemnly in his purple robe and delivered his commencement speech. He gave a stirring message of the Lord's work in his life. A small excerpt:
"Not only am I graduating from high school, I am graduating from home school. For 13 years my mother has given her life to teaching me the basics of education. Today is as much a graduation for her as it is for me. She taught me how to read. She taught me how to write and she taught me math. But most importantly, she taught me about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Both she and my father have shared with me the miracle of Christ and how he paid for my sins on the Cross, and for that I am eternally grateful. Through their teaching, they have not only prepared me academically for life, but they have taught me how to be a man of God in this secular world. I have received an education that I could not have received anywhere else. I have learned how important my family is, and how to face the world with all it's challenges and temptations."
It was a tribute to his parents and they were humble before the Lord.
An Arrow Award was then presented by his mother. As the first arrow pulled from the Swanson quiver, Jared was reminded that the Lord had given him a target to hit and that he was released to do His work. A touching moment of giving a child his wings.
Presentation of the Diploma was next on the program. It was read aloud and presented with a round of applause from the audience. As the commotion settled, the melody of Watercolour Ponies by Wayne Watson filled the room. A video medley featuring the graduate from birth to senior year brought many tears.
A closing prayer from Jared's pastor beseeched the Lord to continue the good work that He had begun. To bring truth from Jared's lips to his generation as he preached the gospel. A prayer of hope and exhortation that encouraged all children of the King to use their lives unto His service.
With a strengthened heart, Jared stood to be presented as the graduating class of 1997 from Swanson Christian Academy. Moving his gold tassel from right to left on his mortarboard hat, the applause thundered throughout the room. For a few moments, he watched proudly as all assembled stood and acknowledged his achievement. Then he removed his hat and tossed it into the air.
Let the reception begin!
Chunks of frozen gold punch sat solidly in bowls. Refusing to melt, the ice mountains floated stubbornly in pools of gingerale. Thirsty family and friends clustered around the purple and gold decorated tables and filled their plates with food. Chocolate chip, molasses, and peanut butter cookies disappeared quickly from mounded piles on loaded trays. Pudding cake breads arranged in flower wheels of butterscotch, lemon, chocolate, and strawberry were besieged with reaching fingers. Cheese and fruit trays also offered their delicacies to all who had come to celebrate.
As music filtered from the speakers lending the atmosphere an air of gaiety, the proud parents caught each other's eye. The unspoken message was "and let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9
Graduation Poem for Jared Paul Swanson
ALL ABOUT SHOES by Andrew Thomas ( copyright 1997)Life gives you many chances To follow or to lead. People share their lives with you They all will plant their seeds. Shoes are all around you As you live from day to day. They choose their paths by what they see. We pray the narrow way. Joelle's shoes have followed you. She's watching you, big brother. And though sometimes you wonder She won't trade you for another. Jordan's shoes are all worn out. Their chance for life is dim. They're worn because he follows you Or cuz you're chasing him. Julia's shoes are busy too. She's dancing on her toes. Priceless value is a brother Listening as she grows. Justin's shoes are high tops. Basketball's his wife. Your friendship helps prepare him To play the game of life. Your Mom and Dad's shoes lead the way. You follow close behind. They feed you, teach you, raise you, love you Christ they've helped you find. Your parent's shoes are out ahead. They want the best for you. So follow close behind, they'll help you Know just what to do. You've led and followed many shoes Not on the stage today. Family and friends alike Have helped map out the way. God has said your family Priority should be. But look beyond the shoes of man And sandals you will see. The Word has often taught us Of the price that you must pay. You must surrender all - it's black and white There is no gray. More than family, more than friends Step up your pace, walk hand in hand With Christ who wears His sandals Leaving footprints in the sand. So you see - Christ leads us to the cross He paid our dues. And life is worth it all If you strive to fill His shoes!
by Andrew Thomas ( copyright 1997)
We appreciate the Swanson Family allowing us to share this article and poem with you this week. I first read this account and poem when I was right in the middle of preparing mandatory progress reports and it served to remind me once more of what a precious privilege it has been to homeschool our children--it has been worth it all!
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."